Privatisation: Whose flame has burnt the brightest?

03 Mar 2020 / Insight

By Nigel Hawkins

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Privatisation: Whose flame has burnt the brightest?

Much of the UK’s privatisation programme took place between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s: subsequent sales have been few. Undoubtedly, privatisation attracted many private investors to the market, many for the first time. Following the 50.2% sale of British Telecom (BT) shares in 1984, which was the first mass privatisation, other utility stocks were sold off, notably British Gas (BG), the English and Welsh water companies and virtually all the electricity supply sector. The transport sector saw several sales, notably in aviation with British Airways (BA) and British Airports Authority (BAA), along with various railway, ports and bus companies.

Many privatisation stocks have materially outperformed the FTSE-100 since their flotation, but there have also been serial underperformers. We identify the brightest flames and the weakest lights over the years.